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James J. Lacy Jr., standout college athlete

BasketballLoyola University MarylandCollege SportsRoman CatholicismChristianityLoyola Greyhounds

James J. Lacy Jr., who set a national scoring record as a standout basketball forward at what is now Loyola University Maryland and was a retired insurance broker, died of complications from melanoma Saturday at his North Roland Park home. He was 87.

In 1949, Mr. Lacy was the nation's highest-scoring collegiate basketball player with 2,199 points.

"People worshipped him as a player. He was known as No. 16," said former Evening Sun sports editor Bill Tanton. "They played in that little bandbox [of an arena], seating something like 1,400 people. We thought it was great. We thought it was Madison Square Garden. We would see Lacy do his magic."

Born in Baltimore, he was the son of James J. Lacy, the state comptroller who was also an owner of a Fells Point foundry. His mother was the former Rose Daily, a homemaker.

Raised in Oakenshawe and Guilford, Mr. Lacy attended Mount Washington Country School and was a 1943 graduate of Loyola High School, where he initially gained attention on the basketball court.

"Jim was the star of the 1943 Loyola High team," said retired WBAL sports anchor Vince Bagli, a close friend. "In the crucial game, Jim and his team beat City College and won the Maryland Scholastic Association title."

Mr. Bagli, who was a fellow Loyola High School student, recalled how coach Ed Hargaden personally practiced with Mr. Lacy.

Mr. Lacy attended Loyola College and played on its 1943-1944 basketball and tennis teams. As a college freshman, he was the state's leading scorer. After his freshman year, he joined the Navy during World War II and played basketball at the Bainbridge Naval Training Station in Cecil County and served aboard the USS Boxer in the Pacific.

After the war, he returned to Loyola and played for the Greyhounds from 1946 to 1949.

"He finished his career as the NCAA's all-time leading scorer at the time with 2,199 points, a mark that stands today as the school record in points," said a statement from the university. "His seasons at Loyola still stand as the most successful four-year stretch in program history. Lacy's teams, directed by Head Coach Emil "Lefty" Reitz, won 68.3 percent of its games, going 84-39."

"Jim Lacy was a dominant figure on the basketball court at Loyola, but he was an even more beloved person for his gentle and caring demeanor," said Loyola Assistant Vice President Jim Paquette, who is also director of athletics. "He was called 'Gentleman Jim,' and we are forever grateful that he is a part of Loyola history."

Mr. Lacy scored an average of 20.8 points per game for the Greyhounds and led the NCAA in scoring in the 1946-1947 season. He was then second in the NCAA in scoring as a junior in 1947-1948, averaging 17.5 points.

"In that era, if you were to pick a college all-star team, Jim Lacy would have been your first pick," said Mr. Bagli.

Mr. Lacy was a member of the inaugural class of the Loyola Athletics Hall of Fame in 1978. His jersey, No. 16, hangs from the Reitz Arena ceiling.

"He was a four-time All-Mason-Dixon Conference honoree, leading Loyola to three Mason-Dixon titles from 1947-49. Lacy led Loyola to its first NAIA Tournament victory in 1949, as well, and he helped the Greyhounds to three victories in that year's National Catholic Intercollegiate Tournament in Denver," the Loyola statement said.

Mr. Lacy turned down offers from the Washington Capitals of the Basketball Association of American and the Syracuse Nationals of the National Basketball Association. He also declined to play for the Baltimore Bullets.

Mr. Lacy played squash and won numerous state titles as a singles and doubles player. In doubles, he played with his brother, Joseph J. Lacy, a Baltimore resident.

He initially worked at his family's foundry at Block and Philpot streets in Fells Point. He then became an insurance broker at Riggs, Counselman, Michaels and Downes, where he worked until about 10 years ago.

"My father was the Lacy family patriarch," said his daughter, Mary Daily Lacy of Baltimore. "He was not just a father to his five children but was a beloved uncle to all his nieces and nephews."

In 1959, Mayor J. Harold Grady named Mr. Lacy president of the Baltimore City Fire Board. He served on the panel until 1971.

Mr. Lacy ran for president of the City Council in 1971, joining a ticket headed by city solicitor George Russell in the Democratic primary election. Mr. Russell, who is African-American, ran on a racially integrated ticket. Mr. Lacy was endorsed by the Baltimore Afro-American, but lost by nearly 4,000 votes to Walter S. Orlinsky. William Donald Schaefer defeated Mr. Russell.

Mr. Lacy, who had been sober for the past 30 years, was active in Alcoholics Anonymous and worked with others to overcome their addictions.

"He was constantly calling on people to tell them where the meetings were," said a Loyola classmate, Jim Gentry Sr. of Timonium. "He would ask if you had any problems and ask if you were staying sober. He encouraged people to talk to him about any issues they had so they would not turn to drink."

Mr. Lacy continued to attend Loyola basketball games until recently.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 740 N. Calvert St., where he was a member.

In addition to his daughter and brother, survivors include two sons, James J. Lacy III of Ocean City and Robert J. Lacy of Baltimore; and another daughter, Rett Lacy of Baltimore. His wife of 57 years, the former Dorothy Callis, died in 2006. A daughter, Joan R. Lacy, died in 2009.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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